MLB.com has posted their list of the top 50 draft prospects for the 2015 amateur draft. The Pittsburgh Pirates have the 20th overall pick in the first round, which could still move up. They began the off-season with the 23rd overall pick, but that was before three teams ahead of them with unprotected picks signed a free agent that cost them their first round pick. The Pirates also have a compensation pick for losing Russell Martin and they will get another pick if they don’t re-sign Francisco Liriano, so they could have three picks within the top 50 by the time the draft rolls around.
Back in late October, we took a look an early look at the 2015 draft class after Baseball America posted their top 50 draft prospect list. Just like on the BA list, MLB.com has a lot of pitching on their list. While it’s obviously too early to match a player up to the Pirates picks, you can get a feel for the type of talent that is available around the 20th spot. The player MLB.com has 20th was profiled in the other link just above, Cal Poly Pomona right-hander Cody Ponce. He was ranked #24 by Baseball America. Ponce has a workhorse frame at 6’5″, 235 lb(slightly bigger according to BA) and he can get his fastball up to 96 MPH. He throws a nice cutter, but his control and his other pitches are average at best.
I’ve included a video of Ponce from his sophomore season courtesy of Big League Futures.
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.
Hopefully Alex Bergman or Justin Hooper could fall to us at 20, otherwise I like Ponce. Later in the round would like to see us snag Kyler Murray or Alonzo Jones.
We’re drafting Cody, put it down in ink. I like Martin and Betts also.
For the past few years I have been pleased with the Buc’s drafting philosophy… I would like to see a shift to the approach that other teams picking in the 20’s and contending applied. That being to choose mature college starting pitchers that project very close to being MLB ready… I.e., The reds and Mike Leake , the Cards and Micheal Wacha. Is there a guy fitting this profile in 2015?
I’m always a fan of maturing philosophies, and think it should be considered a failure if a given team takes the same approach year after year.
That being said, I’m not real sure how much benefit – at this moment – the Pirates would get from this specific strategy. Those guys you listed – and I’ll throw another Cardinal, Marco Gonzales, into that group – weren’t expected to be much more than 4’s and 5’s at the big league level. Is that really a need that the organization has in the short term? I’d lean towards saying no.
However, I absolutely do believe the general idea – “settling” on high floor, low ceiling college players who could move fast – is worth exploring in other areas. Maybe they saw Conor Joe as a guy with a line drive stroke who walked more than he struck out and could play four different positions as a “safe” pick who could contribute quickly. Doing something similar with a college infielder in this draft fills a need in a system fairly short on those players. Maybe drafting a reliever such as the Royals did gives an immediate boost to the pen while keeping the option to start open down the road.
DISCLAIMER: Pick 20 is getting pretty close to the premium talent portion of the first round for me, personally, to be wild about settling on low upside. But the comp. balance pick(s) would be a perfect opportunity.
All great points…. I never realized they were doing just that w Joe… Looks like a poor man’s Josh Willingham ,right down to being a corner OF masquerading as a catcher.. Also, the Cards pitchers… I could spin your accuracy on their over-achievement to make my argument… Shouldn’t DR’s Benedict and Searage be able to deliver that same guidance ? But you’re right, at 20 or higher, back in familiar premium range. If we end up w 3 top picks , maybe another Conor Joe type choice? I just request an arm rather than position…
Just playing Devil’s Advocate, one thing all of the arms Searage/Benedict have become known for helping previously had MLB success. Now it’s certainly true that the organization seems fully capable of developing arms internally as well, but starting with one who has never pitched a professional inning might have a significantly lower success rate than one who’s previously succeeded at the highest level.
To me, the Joe pick looks like something the Cardinals would do, just a few rounds earlier. College bat with solid tools but none that stand out. I can understand the argument that he was overdrafted, but to me that’s an argument that matters very little in the end. Teams do well to get two or three big leaguers out of an entire draft. If Joe turns out to be one of them, no reasonable person would still consider his drafting a mistake because they took him two or three rounds too soon.
I like your thinking on that but I think the Pirates try to draft high school arms with a higher upside than a Mike Leake would give you. Both philosophies work but I would prefer to go with the higher upside high school arms and teach them how to pitch they way you want them to
I am right with ya… But for one thing… They cut our nuts off by limiting our strategy , of paying over slot bonuses to hi ceiling HS arms that were considered difficult signs. Please, don’t get me started on this… The Yankees and Red Sox can pay $188m in FA… But any advantage the little step brother finds is deemed illegal. Another gripe for another day.
Big picture I don’t suggest changing approach… But we find ourselves w a gap needing to be bridged … Guys like C.Cain & S. Allie didn’t pan out and Taillon fell behind. A one time reach for immediate results , To get us to that organizational depth that exists , w/o spoiling the potential by forcing it too soon.And wouldn’t it be gratifying , just this one time?
I say keep shooting for the stars! Lol. I would rather have 1 kershaw rather than 5 leake’s
Can’t argue w that. If both strategies work… No wrong answers..
Lets Go Buc’s !
But then you see the success wacha has had with the cards. Damn the draft is so unpredictable. Gotta love it. Lol
I am intrigued by Mike Nikorak. A big tall righthander from stroudsburg pa. A high schooler with room to fill out and add more velocity. Just up the Pirates mo of previous drafts
Bucco: Anybody in the Top 50 is worthy, and Nikorak is one of those kids to which the Pirates gravitate. The two guys I like are later numbers such as RHP’s #30 Dillon Tate and #31 Donny Everett. Tate has excellent velocity, at least one more plus pitch and another near plus. He hides the ball very well to the last possible moment of release and is also very quick to the plate out of the stretch. Everett is young – will not turn 18 until April – with a tremendous amount of upside.
I love how loose Kyle Tucker is at the plate. Pro ball should tighten up his mechanics, too.
Cornelius Randolph and Luken Baker are early favorites for me, as well.
Where do you like Baker? Corner outfield or on the rubber? – I like him as a hitter , but he looks immobile … Wonder if he can handle a grounder better than Josh Bell ? Some nasty Lefty arms out there.(wouldn’t be the 1st time NH was accused of drafting to need).. Maybe the Buc’s can draft responsible with the 1st 2 picks and go for a watcha see is watcha get guy w the 3rd one…. Especially since a 3rd choice in the 1st 50 would mean they faked on Frankie…. The big illini lefty is a late bloomer and bullpen only thus far ,so maybe his arms not cooked… Just spit ballin…
Granted this is based off very little information, but I’d also start him off as a hitter, at 1B specifically. MLB.com is generous with their grades, and they already have him as a 30 runner as a prep. Tough time imagining that projecting to a Major League outfielder.
In my view it would be easier to start him as a hitter and convert to a reliever, a la Sean Doolittle, if he doesn’t pan out.
As for the pitchers, I admittedly have a tough time differentiating one projectable prep arm from another, and I’m not a big fan of college arms in general. Rarely will I have an opinion worth anything on specific pitchers in the draft.
I usually don’t feel any type of way about upcoming draft classes… It’s the big , hard throwing lefties in this year… They are everywhere , projected from 10 thru 20.. All they way 3 or 4 rounds… Mid to high 90’s on a lefty w 2 more projected plus pitches is sexy.